Why kids need to see their parents fail

To most kids, all the adults in their lives are success stories

Recently, my 12-year-old daughter was in tears. She’s done badly on a maths test and was upset with herself and worried that I’d be disappointed in her.

‘Everyone else is brainy,’ she said. She went on to say that me, her dad and her sister are all clever.

‘Are you kidding?’ I told her. ‘I’ve failed at so many things in my life, you’d be here all night if I was to write them down.’

She didn’t believe me, so I listed a few. I failed my driving test on the first attempt. I failed to get a job as a TV producer because I fluffed the interview. I got a written warning from my boss when I was 28. I was hopeless at touch rugby, and I could never toast pine nuts without burning them. Her eyes widened.

It made me realise, that to most kids, all the adults in their lives are success stories. If our kids never see us fail and then recover from it, how can we expect them to learn and build the necessary resilience for life?

Indeed, I was reading an interesting article in Time magazine by a school principal, who said it was only when her children saw her struggling with surfing that she realised they had never seen heras a beginner before.

Recounting the family surfing lesson, Dr Tara Kinsey, from New York’s The Hewitt School, said her daughter was worried when she kept wiping out. It was only when Tara explained that she was still learning how to surf, that her daughter understood why she had been failing.

She concluded this thought when she wrote: ‘Whether at school, at home, or on the playing fields, our children are constantly taught by adults to do things adults already know how to do. It’s no wonder so many kids struggle to try new things, tackle challenges head on and pick themselves up after a failure – and why resilience among teens continues to decline.’

As she pointed out, we tell our kids that mistakes are guideposts to help them get better, but how often do we actually show them how it’s done?

I’ve decided to show my kids when things go wrong and how I work on solving the problem. First up, pine nuts! I now get the kids to watch the frypan for me as they’re toasting!

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